In: analog photography

Walker Evans – James R. Mellow
May 19, 2022

Walker Evans
James R. Mellow
Basic Books; Revised ed. edition (Oct. 11 2001)

Walker Evans is one of the most famous American documentary photographers of the past 100 years and his images will stand for another hundred at least. While every serious photographer is familiar with his work (the best known of which was shot during the 1930’s for the U.S. Farm Security Administration as per the examples below), there have been relatively few books that discuss Evans as a man. James R. Mellow captures his complexities in this eminently readable biography, published in 2001.

What makes particularly interesting reading is Evan’s evolution as an artist, from failed student in the Mid-West US, to failed writer in Paris, to acclaimed photographer on his return to New York in the late 20’s and early 30’s. The book quotes extensively from his letters and other writings. One can almost hear him speaking… I imagine his voice to be a low pitched, slow drawl; a mix of Henry Fonda, Peter Coyote and Alan Rickman (minus the accent).

Evans comes across as dour and fatalistic, yet strangely still likeable. Much of his writing describes his unhappiness with things as they are, whether it be his annoyance with his mother, his dissatisfaction with the quality of the prints made from his negatives or his despondence about his romantic relationships. Many of his friendships with other famous artists are discussed, including Ben Shahn, Steven Crane and Hanns Skolle.

The book offers details about the trips Evans made to do his photography and specifically the trips he made with author James Agee as they worked on the seminal Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Evans plays the role of aesthete opposite Agee’s sensualist, the collision of which resulted in a book acclaimed for its intimacy and realism… a strong documentary account of the lives of sharecroppers and their families in the American South during the Great Depression.

It is sad but somehow inevitable that Evans ends his days as somewhat of an alcoholic / academic recluse. Mellow’s reliance on Evans’ own words leave you feeling as if you really knew him, that you cared about him, but weren’t overly close to the actual man behind the photographs, because of his determination to keep people at bay.

Walker Evans by James R. Mellow is available from numerous online retailers.

~ Mark Walton

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Kary Janousek – Connecting to History
March 11, 2022

Kary Janousek Connecting to History Wind - Kary Janousek Kary Janousek is a prairie transplant. She found herself living in Fargo,... Read More
Liz Potter – Reference
January 11, 2022

Liz Potter Reference The Power of this Land - Liz Potter Liz Potter has a big personality that is inversely reflected... Read More
Podcast: Peppa Martin talks to Jurgen Vogt
November 23, 2021

‎curated. co-editor and curator Peppa Martin interviews Canadian photographer Jürgen Vogt. This podcastwas first published at thecommotion.ca

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Liz Potter – Everything is going to be okay
September 22, 2021

Liz Potter’s series of panoramic self-portraits should be viewed while listening to an Aaron Copland playlist. Like the great American composer, Potter captures the expansiveness of the American frontier, or what’s left of it. She pits her everyman heroine against its searing heat, its beautiful skies and its unforgiving majesty. Small and alone, she confronts it with courage and humility, and does not fear failure or setbacks.

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Metro Station Crowd 1, City of Shadows, 1992
April 20, 2021

Alexey Titarenko, Vasileostrovoskaya Metro Station Crowd 1, from City of Shadows, 1992

I was twenty two when Titarenko captured this image, a freshly posthumous portrait of the USSR – and that was nearly forty years ago. The Cold War, as we knew it, was over, but the uncertainty, both for the bustling passengers of the once and future St. Petersburg, after its decades as Leningrad, and the rest of the world, is encapsulated in this image. Titarenko is an acclaimed photographer, not least for how after “the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 he produced several series of photographs about the human condition of the Russian people during this time and the suffering they endured throughout the twentieth century. To illustrate links between the present and the past, he created powerful metaphors by introducing long exposure and intentional camera movement into street photography. The most well known series of this period is City of Shadows.” More of Titarenko’s work can be seen here. 

~ Bart Gazzola

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Greg Girard: Under Vancouver 1972-1982
November 15, 2021

Self published
Available HERE

“These photographs of Vancouver from the 1970s and early 1980s show the city’s final days as a port town at the end of the railway line. Soon after these pictures were made Vancouver began to be noticed by the wider world (Expo 86 is generally agreed on as the pivotal moment), refashioning itself as an urban resort on nature’s doorstep and attracting attention as a destination for real estate investment. Back then, long before post-9/11 security concerns sealed off the working waterfront from the city, many of Vancouver’s downtown and east side streets ended at the waterfront, an area filled with commercial fishing docks, cargo terminals, and bars and cafés for waterfront workers and sailors.

Made in and of the moment, they show a young photographer’s earliest engagements (often featuring the underside of the city). And although it was never the intention, the pictures now form a record of a Vancouver that has all but disappeared.” – Greg Girard

Greg Girard is a Canadian photographer who has spent much of his career in Asia. His work examines the social and physical transformations taking place throughout the region.

He is represented by Monte Clark Gallery (Vancouver). More of Greg Girard’s work can be enjoyed at his site.

~ Peppa Martin

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Homage II
April 20, 2021

Angela Reilly’s Homage II was one of those magical experiences where art can just overwhelm you. Sitting in a pub in Glasgow on my first night ever in the UK, a series of 5 portraits hung around the room had my full attention. From a distance I thought I was looking at photographs, but close up, it was so much more. You can practically see the blood coursing through the swimmer’s veins trying to warm her up. Angela won the National Portrait Gallery’s Portrait Award in 2006 and shows regularly in the UK.

You can find Angela on Facebook, and on Instagram.

~ Mark Walton

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Prairie Gothic
April 20, 2021

George Webber
Rocky Mountain Books, 2013
$50.00 CND

If I was asked to pick 1 book of Canadian photography to be on a desert island with, it would be George Webber’s Prairie Gothic. I was lucky enough to be in Calgary when George had an exhibition at the small Art Gallery space downtown in 2008. The work, much of it from this book, changed me. Much like Walker Evan’s photographs in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and the American south of the depression era, Prairie Gothic is a momentous testament to the landscape and people of the Canadian West.

georgewebber.ca

~ Mark Walton

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IOWA
April 20, 2021

Nancy Rexroth
University of Texas Press, 2017
$55.95 CND

This reprint of Nancy Rexroth’s seminal survey of images, taken with a toy Diana camera in the 1970’s, influenced a wide array of photographers, including Sally Mann, who referenced it as an inspiration in her book Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings. Anyone who adheres to the principal of “less is more” needs to buy this.

nancyrexroth.com

~ Mark Walton

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